Greed is the root of all evil

  • 2009-09-17
  • By Anton Ponomarenko

BIRD HOUSE: Someone's always watching.

RIGA - Every time you have a perfectly nice weekend and you'd think that, for once, everything went the way you planned it, something weird and unexpected happens and ruins everything. And it usually has something to do with somebody charging you for something you didn't do, or order.
Take my case, for example. I've spent the whole weekend in total harmony with myself and my dearest better half. We had a perfect Saturday doing absolutely nothing but relaxing and enjoying exotic meals. In the evening we went to visit some friends, had dinner at their place and went home for dessert, Chablis and the telly. It was unbelievably rewarding to do absolutely nothing after a very hard week.

The next day was even better, because we didn't move a single muscle. Just our jaws. Chewing on the exotic leftovers from yesterday was difficult, but not impossible. So we did.
After this weekend in gastronomic heaven, I could have easily joined the Belly Dance Association (and I bet there is one) because I finally got something to 'dance.'

What could possibly go wrong? Well, the TV could have broken down, or the microwave oven... But nothing happened. I was starting to get a little bit nervous, because from my personal experience I know that nothing ever goes so well without ending ridiculously catastrophic. It was getting late and it was time for my lady to leave, so I drove her home. No problem.

On my way back I was feeling rather upbeat, enjoying the road of comparatively good quality, knowing that there isn't a single speed bump on the way home. Some ten more minutes and I'd have been well asleep at home, but this is the place where everything goes wrong. If it were a movie, you'd hear the sound of vinyl spun backwards.

I was stopped by the police, to learn that at some point in my journey I was exceeding the speed limit and that it means that I now have to pay 30 of my lats, which will then be spent on God knows what, by the institution employing the guys that ruined my whole weekend. At this point I should probably add that I was by no means exceeding the speed limit at any given moment. This is the sincere and honest truth. But the policemen wouldn't believe me, and it was incredibly hard to argue because there were three of them, wearing uniforms and guns.

So all I had left was to sign the ticket and leave in the worst possible mood, constantly swearing throughout the rest of my journey.

This incident got me thinking. If we're living in Europe, thinking of introducing the single European currency and taking advice from the European Union, how come the roads are still so bad? How come the police are still doing whatever they want, pressing charges against law-abiding citizens for no apparent reason? How come the medical treatment is so awful and at the same time so expensive? Even when there is a pretty good chance that you'll die tomorrow, you still get checked out of the hospital, so you won't take up the space. Why are the schools getting closed? A new generation of businessmen and politicians isn't going to come out of nowhere, especially if they have no school to study in.

In Europe speed-cameras are set up in places where there is an extra-necessity for the drivers to maintain low speeds. This would be near schools or on parts of roads with limited visibility. There are signs warning you about the presence of a speed-camera, so you'd slow down. Because who cares if you're speeding on empty parts of the road, where you pose no threat to others? But these cameras make sure that you don't drive fast in places with lots of kids, or where you are most likely to get in an accident if you drive too fast. There isn't a single reason for a person to be speeding in a place where he's 100 percent sure that he'll get a fine, which means that he'll slow down and your kids will be a lot more safe. In Latvia the speed-cameras aren't fixed, they constantly get moved around the city, so you're never sure whether there is one or not, and as soon as you put your foot down, it appears out of nowhere and the flash goes off. Brilliant. Simple. Fining drivers for the sake of getting their money, instead of their attention and sense of social-responsibility.

These, and many other questions bug me all the time. And the one weekend that I forgot about them and was happy for a moment, a man in a uniform comes to remind me of all that stuff. Lovely! And I know it's not his fault... Wait, but it is; I wasn't speeding...